Illustrations Changing Your Preconceived Notions about Beauty Standards

Illustrations Changing Your Preconceived Notions about Beauty Standards

How artist/ illustrator Jasjyot Singh Hans tries to shift the public's perception about beauty and fashion through his illustrations.

CG. Could you please tell me about your educational qualifications?

Jasjyot. I studied Animation Film Design at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad and then did an MFA in Illustration Practice at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland.

CG. How and when did you come up with the idea of becoming an artist and fashion illustrator?

Jasjyot. I've been drawing ever since I was a kid, I can't seem to recall a time I wasn't. At the age of seven, I wanted to become a '3D Cartoon Animator' even though I had little idea about what it actually entailed.

Everyone in my family humoured my interest in art, but my parents supported me through every step. They enrolled me in summer classes at the National Gallery of Modern Art, where I would roam in the exhibition halls for hours! It was there that I saw paintings of Amrita Sher-Gil and the minimal graphic work of Jamini Roy that remain my art-loves and influences even today. I was always interested in fashion and accessorising my characters (usually women), which adorned the back of all my notebooks. When my mum used to flip through them, she saw tonnes of illustrations of women in bikinis. She'd say, 'wow they have amazing legs!' At that time I knew I wanted to incorporate my interest in fashion into my work as an illustrator/ artist.

CG. Why did you choose to become an illustrator?

Jasjyot. After working on a small film project at NID, I realised that though I loved telling stories and animation, it probably wasn't for me, especially in a full-time capacity. The idea of working on a variety of shorter projects involving different art styles, subjects and clients seemed invigorating to me and illustration felt like the right path.

CG. What does your daily routine look like?

Jasjyot. I wish my routine was more idealistic, sadly this will have to suffice. At the least, I hope it inspires people to do better! I sleep late, so I wake up late. I run to my Moka pot and pour myself some coffee before I can do/ recognise/ register anything. I usually take about an hour to calibrate and look through a list of continuing projects that I need to make progress on. I put on some music and make my way to the shower, think of what I want to eat for lunch, then watch a little something while I eat. Then I try to catch up on my emails and work for about 4 to 5 hours. After a short walk around the neighbourhood in the evening, I plan dinner and work a bit more depending on deadlines/ work schedule and work into the night. Some nights (read: most nights) are definitely spent binging TV series and snacking at odd hours.

CG. What were the challenges you faced for reaching where you are today?

Jasjyot. I think anyone starting out in this industry face similar challenges: getting a foot in the door, managing work for finance vs passion, and most of all, getting to a place in your practice where both of them align as closely as they can. When I moved to the United States, it was pretty stressful to find work as a freelancer right after graduation. So in a way, I had to start from scratch, but in hindsight, I spent too long trying to create work that felt current. I got the best advice from the fantastic Marcos Chin to just create work around subjects that I like and the projects will follow.

It sounds wild when bills need to be paid, but it worked out. I still struggle with getting work regularly, but that's the life I chose as a freelance illustrator!

CG. What is the process or style that you follow to make an illustration?

Jasjyot. It's pretty basic, read and re-read the brief, write down keywords of ideas that need to be conveyed and scribble out visual metaphors/ compositions that convey it successfully. The next step is to make a series of roughs, refine all areas that I find difficult in this stage, ink, colour, send! For my personal work, this process is a lot more easy and free, I usually think of a mood or a body posture or an article of clothing and centre everything around that.

CG. Who or what is your muse?

Jasjyot. The women I've known in my life are my muse. They represent everything I lack as a person and hence become my source of power through what I illustrate.

CG. What role have online platforms and social media played in your work?

Jasjyot. In the "simpler days", I started putting work out on Blogspot and built a small community of people there. When Instagram blew up, I was consistent in putting my work out and that really helped my work get more attention and recognition. I was able to network with people in different places, which felt great. But over time, social media has kind of morphed into something a lot more insidious and we all walked right into its trap. People starting out in the industry measure success by people's social media following and connect it to their self-worth which can be dangerous. So while I obviously still continue to put my work out pretty regularly, I feel less pressure putting in a certain kind of work or getting attention from a group of people.

CG. While teaching in Baltimore are you able to fulfil your dreams?

Jasjyot. We're constantly in the process of chasing the dangling (imaginary) carrot! I try to juggle a lot of different things like fashion, editorial, publishing, comics, zine-making, printmaking, gallery work and murals within my practice as an illustrator. I think teaching is just an extension of my practice.

CG. What according to you is your best creation?

Jasjyot. I am too hard on myself to think anything is my best creation. It's important to not be complacent!

CG. With the declining freedom of speech, freedom of sexuality and religious tolerance across the world, as an artist does it affect your work?

Jasjyot. I think it makes me go harder on things that I want to advocate for within and outside my illustrations, of course, that's an idealistic answer. I understand people don't always feel safe putting themselves out there in a capacity to attract bigoted views on their work and sometimes even putting their lives at risk. But this is the time for people to create more work around identities under threat and I do strive to put myself out there more honestly and Fearlessly.

CG. Does the country you live in influence your work?

Jasjyot. I think one's surroundings/ circumstance always finds a way into the work, whether it is a reaction that is a direct inspiration or escapist.

CG. Do your fashion clients request adjustments to the drawings to project what their ideal woman is like? If yes, do you make those changes or do you explain Yourself?

Jasjyot. It used to happen all the time, which was obviously frustrating. But of late, I think everyone that has reached out trusts that I understand their brand and will create something that best showcases their product.

CG. As an artist, how easy or difficult is it to channel your personal experience or emotions in your work?

Jasjyot. It is difficult, taxing and at times draining too, but I think that's what makes the work more powerful, as it comes from a true place with the human connection.

CG. As an artist, how easy or difficult is it to channel your personal experience or emotions in your work?

Jasjyot. It is difficult, taxing and at times draining too, but I think that's what makes the work more powerful, as it comes from a true place with the human connection.

CG. What is the motto behind starting the #BadaBehtarHai hashtag on Instagram?

Jasjyot. I started it just as a cheeky thing. Usually, the phrase is used in the context of masculinity and within it, Eg: the phallus. So I thought it would be cool to subvert from that and shift the conversation to a more inclusive, body-positive and femme space.

CG. Given your passion for fashion illustration, which collection were you recently drawn to and why?

Jasjyot. The Area SS2021 Couture collection was everything my senses (and the dated idea of couture) needed.

CG. Do you think the conversation around body image, sexuality and self-love are Progressing?

Jasjyot. Yes, they are, but bigger bodies aren't nearly as normalised as they ought to be by now. In the past, characters with bigger bodies were one-dimensional and were used purely as comic relief. Even now, bigger characters are written into the media in a tokenistic way, never in a way that makes fatness seem like... just a thing. That's probably why illustrations around these ideas from independent artists are important, and I'm happy to continue being part of this conversation.

CG. Most of your sketches are of women and you have very few sketches of men. Is there a particular reason?

Jasjyot. As gay boys, we often tend to bond with the experience of women around us because what is advertised as the male experience feels inadequate and toxic. This is why we are fascinated by women because they get to dress up in fantastical clothing and be unabashedly feminine: all things we wish we can someday do freely.

CG. What is one thing that you really look forward to doing someday in your career?

Jasjyot. Work on something big with Miuccia Prada.

CG. What are you working on next?

Jasjyot. I'm currently working on writing for my graphic memoir with Levine Querido, which has been quite exciting and challenging. I'm also working on some fun character illustrations for a wallpaper design which will be installed at the Taj St. James Court, London. I'm also teaching a senior class at Towson University in Baltimore.

Apart from that, I'm continuing my ongoing series: #ManSmutMonday and NIGHTMARE on social media, and planning on working on some t-shirt designs this year!

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